Maybe it’s Time to Drop the Jokes and Give the French Military the Respect they’ve Earned

Former Marine Chris Hernandez makes the case that there are plenty of cowards in war zones, and the French aren’t among them, so why continue to smear them?  It’s the American way to honor courage, so let’s walk the talk.  His thoughts are even more ominous now that assessments coming out of the U.S. Army indicate a shocking level of unreadiness for war, poor morale and a concerted effort from the top civilian leadership (*cough*) to purge all competent military brass.  The following are excerpts from Chris’s article published in Breach Bang Clear.  You can also read the entire article on his blog.

Breach-Bang-Clear_Hernandez and the French Army

Almost every time I tell someone I worked with the French, I get comments like, “You mean the French have an army?”, “Did they surrender to you the day you got there?”, or some other variation of the “cheese-eating surrender monkey” theme. And if they don’t outright insult French troops, they usually dismiss my experience by saying, “Oh, you must have been working with the Foreign Legion. They’re not really French.”

Breach-Bang-Clear_Hernandez RAIDS magazine coverThose comments really get on my nerves. And they’re flat out wrong. I served with a few Legionnaires and a lot of regular French troops. Whatever the French public’s or government’s politics are, their soldiers are brave, well-trained, in fantastic shape and aggressive. Describing those men as cowards is an absolutely unfair characterization.

… I arrived in Afghanistan six months after that ambush. Over the next nine months, I went on numerous patrols and reconnaissance missions with the French Mountain Troops and Marines. I learned to speak French well enough that I was able to relay information between American and French radio networks. At times I was the only American on French missions. My worries about working with them were completely unfounded, and since then I get pretty angry whenever I hear tired, old “Frenchmen are cowards” remarks.

One Small Way the French Leadership Makes Us Look Stoopid

We in the US military are often treated like mentally-slow kindergartners. I think every last soldier in the US Army becomes homicidally violent at the thought of wearing a reflective belt in a combat zone. I used to shake my head at new unit commanders in Bagram who ordered their soldiers to travel everywhere inside the wire with a battle buddy, even to a porta-john right outside their tent. Many of us, especially senior NCOs, bristle at the hand-holding, “you’re too stupid to trust” mentality that has permeated the Army.

And don’t even get me started on General Order number One, the prohibition on alcohol. I don’t drink, but just about everyone else in the world does. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to allow grown men and women to escape the stress of war with a beer or two. Apparently our command thinks if they allow us to drink we’ll all go on kill-crazy rampages a la Robert Bales. The thought of moderate alcohol use under controlled conditions induces an automatic brain aneurism in our senior leaders.

Breach-Bang-Clear_Hernandez and at typical hangout with French and AfghansThe French, on the other hand, don’t have that problem.

This is just the beginning ruminations (grunts: rumination) of my experience with the French Army. In Part 2 I’ll talk about a one-week mission patrol with a French recon patrol, wine on base and their take on sex, sexual harassment and naughtiness.

At Left: A typical hangout with the French and Afghans. Americans drink soda instead of alcohol to avoid offending Afghans, who of course are drinking alcohol with the French.

About GruntOfMonteCristo

Fearless and Devout Catholic Christian First, Loving Husband and Father Second, Pissed-Off Patriot Third, Rocket Engineer Dork Last.
This entry was posted in Defense, Europe, War. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Maybe it’s Time to Drop the Jokes and Give the French Military the Respect they’ve Earned

  1. Coyote says:



  2. solaratov says:

    When I worked in Africa, I had a number of ex-Legionnaires in the unit I ran. To a man, they were the best that I had. A couple of them were about three times my age…and, if I hadn’t been able to out-drink and out-shoot them (usually at the same time), they probably would have had my guts for garters a couple of times.
    They were some seriously tough guys; and they really knew their stuff.
    [Of course, a couple of them were Germans who had joined the Legion after WW2. Still and all, they were some fine men.]

    And, when I had my own security service in South America, my pilot was French – and he was also an Olympic Jujitsu contender and an Olympic-grade equestrian.

    All-in-all, I’d say the French soldier is the equal of any other on the planet…and a lot better than many.

    I figure that “surrender-monkey” bullshit comes from the decisions made by the general staff and civilian government/leaders in WW2. And a down in the mud soldier has very little say in those decisions.

    My advice: Never underestimate French soldiers – whether Legion or regular French military. And screw with any of their SpecOps people at your own peril.


    • Well said! It is easy for anyone to play armchair quarterback in any kind of situation, but I know from many different types of situations, when it comes down to being a “man” or having what it takes to do the (any) job under extreme pressure or peril of life, it would surprise many who “got it” and who fall apart at the scene.

  3. French reader says:

    This is an interesting story and I have no doubt about the capability of the French military. Nevertheles, I sincerely believe that these countries (Afghanistan, Mali, whatever) are not worth one single drop of the blood of our troops that is shed in these hell holes. Who is the enemy the French soldiers are fighting so far from France while they let our homeland at the mercy of the same enemy, here at home ?

    • Excellent point. We, over here, are bleeding to death from the same self-inflicted wound. Why is only one country – Japan – willing to stand up to the enemy from within and discourage muslim immigration? An even better question: why are we all so unwilling to stand up to the other threat amongst us and declare war on the Leftism that rots us from the inside and causes us to be impotent in the face of this and every other threat? If we had the courage to purge the leftists from our midst, at least the ones who now openly declare themselves our traitors and enemies, then the Islamic curse would find itself, again, a beast without teeth.

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